2014 was a—year of resistance—brought on through increased tragedy. From ubiquitous violence, from Palestine to Ferguson, to lack of concern for human needs, the “Fight for $15” to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, 2014 has been difficult. Yet, hope was not all lost. A new ‘protest movement’ was born, people filled the streets, simultaneously, and a moment and movement arose.
2014, especially in the wake of Israeli siege of Gaza and rampant police violence, a new generation of “activists”—were born.
Soles, and souls, hit the streets, commutes were disrupted, Zizek/Occupy style ‘mic-checks’ reemerged, incendiary signs, chants and demands became normal all in part due—a new wave of “activists”— inculcated our psyche (and newsfeed); whether we like it or not, forced the U.S to collectively think about what resistance actually looks like.
These collection of moments, paving the way for a movement, is powerful and necessary. However, it is not infallible, in actuality, it is far from it especially because the ‘over’-proliferation of—“activists’—is doing more harm to the movement, than good.
Regardless of how powerful 300,000 people marching through New York City was, characteristically, it has just become another trendy highlight—in the fetishization of direct action. Moreover, I am no longer interested in hearing about, seeing or talking about actions or especially “activists”—as I am convinced that their relevancy, both semantically and physically, have become obsolete.
To be clear, I am not saying we don’t need direct actions, instead, I am calling for an end to ‘activists’, in their current incarnation. Instead, developing ‘activists’ into the organizers, the movement so badly needs.
“Activists” are defined with 4 blatant characteristics: 1.) people committed to action, activity and ‘showing up’, as opposed to, those invested in building movements, 2.) people attracted to trendy struggles, i.e. Ferguson solidarity, Gaza, etc, 3.) those whose impetus for getting ‘active’ is based on emotional appeal (pathos), not consciousness of systematic injustice and 4.) In many cases, a weak, “liberal” ideology.
Instead, I think there is another way, we need “organizers”, devoted to the development of future organizers, intrinsically what organizers already do; but now it is time to get serious about leadership development.
I define, “organizers”, as displaying 4 parallel, antithetical characteristics: 1.) they see actions, such as rallies and protests, as tactics in a broader struggle for visibility and their role is planning, building and organizing the actions for activists to join, 2.) committed to lasting, systemic altering, struggles, not just the most “hopping”, 3.) commitment to organizing stems from an ethical or logical conclusion of an invalid system and 4.) an ideology, that grapples with liberation—not just progress.
To further explain, let’s take the tragedies of Mike Brown and Eric Garner—and the new ‘protest movement’, alongside it.
Police violence on communities of color is nothing new, but this level of activity, in response, has been missing in the 21st century. In mid-August, shortly after Mike Brown’s murder, protests erupted in Ferguson, then subsequently, across the country. For the next few weeks the streets were hot, shining a damning light on police brutality. Causing tensions, between the police and communities of color, rising to an all-time high, again. The past few months were ripe with great actions, collective power and thousands, upon thousands, in the streets, but what happened to these ‘activists’? They dropped off because, an inherent flaw of “activism”, they did not have a strong theoretical and logical base for becoming active, other than for activity itself.
With rising tensions, the birth of a new movement and no substantive reform, activists have been running wild—but these ‘foot soldiers’ have run their course, now it is time where we take this tragedy and develop organizers, and organizations, to struggle intensely.
Furthermore, today’s “activism” is harmful and cyclical (without getting too theoretical). Meaning, for example, a tragedy occurs, the masses are indignant, a ‘protest movement’ grows—and then it either loses momentum, it is suppressed or the activists accept a certain concession—then pattern starts all over again. Organizers see the error in this cycle; therefore, organizers will always prioritize winning campaigns that will change the nature of the status quo and developing leaders so that movements, won’t die out or be conceded, instead—the struggle for a reimagined world—will continue until the day a new world is born.
There is hope, I know there is. Nothing about our current stage is irrelevant; except, activists and those who preach the gospel of action over organization. We have the power to change that. People actually are building powerful organizations, but they are still the minority.
It is not an easy path, no such thing “short term” win, it is going to take years of painful, grueling, on the ground work but I know that we are more than capable. It will take patience from the older organizers, to teach the newer ones, yet we have the greatest chance at another world because unlike many other generations, or movements, we are guided by hope not despair—and that makes a worldly difference.